Best albums of 2016

by on December 12, 2016 at 2:34 am in Music, Uncategorized | Permalink

You can’t call it “rock and roll” anymore, because rock and roll is dead for the most part.  Nor is the phrase “popular music” appropriate, because a lot of it isn’t popular, or occasionally other forms are popular too.  I say phrases these days are determined by Google search, and if you google “best albums 2016” you get to the kind of list I am talking about.  My main picks are:

Beyonce, Lemonade as a clear first choice.  Runners-up make it three women at the top:

Mitski, Puberty 2, and Angel Olsen, My Woman.

I thought the contributions by Kanye West and Frank Orange mostly delivered, but were not their very best material, and I don’t think I will be listening to those works two or three years from now.  The albums by the old guys and also by the dead guys were pretty good, but ultimately sentimental picks and I refuse to make these lists about sentiment.  The album from last year I found myself still listening to more than I had expected was Small Town Heroes, Hurray For the Riff Raff.

What am I missing?

Here are my earlier picks for world music in 2016, classical and jazz selections will follow soon.

1 AC December 12, 2016 at 2:40 am

Frank Orange?

2 Erlendo December 12, 2016 at 6:22 am

That’s funny. TW’s cool, down with the kids persona cracking

3 GoneWithTheWind December 12, 2016 at 10:22 am

“a lot of it isn’t popular”. A strange yet hauntingly true criticism of how individuals and groups decide what is good and the audience isn’t allowed to have an opinion. I may have heard some of the music from these albums. I may not have. I don’t know if they are good or not. I suspect there are a lot of people like me who have never heard this music. And yet it is considered for best album.

4 dearieme December 12, 2016 at 11:14 am

What else are tubby, bearded middle-aged men meant to do? Listen to grown-up music? Perish the thought.

5 December 12, 2016 at 7:56 pm

Sorry you’re so hung up on egalitarian “poptimism” in music reviewing. It’s been the thing for more than ten years now.

6 derek December 12, 2016 at 3:01 am

Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats. Nothing new, great dance music.

7 witcant December 12, 2016 at 9:09 am

2015 album but I agree, fantastic stuff. They did release something this year, but it’s more of an EP.

8 witcant December 12, 2016 at 9:53 am

Also, if you like Nathaniel Rateliff, check out these guys: This band is a bit of a mystery as I can’t really find out anything about them.

Here’s their Wilson Pickett cover:

9 Matthew Levinson December 12, 2016 at 10:53 am

Hell yes. Was my first thought hidden rock and roll, then I remembered the album is from last year. Them and White Denim are my favorite bands right now you could definitely call rock.

10 Dan December 12, 2016 at 3:05 am

Childish Gambino, Solange, Radiohead, Esperanza Spalding

11 Rubin December 12, 2016 at 3:10 am

You’re missing David Bowie’s fantastic Blackstar. Or maybe you intended to include it in your jazz selection.

In any event, it certainly is the deepest, most beautiful album of 2016.

12 Rich Berger December 12, 2016 at 6:01 am

Yes, that album is in a class by itself – how much music is there by artists who have had a long and inventive career and are facing imminent extinction?

I find it hard to listen to, because it’s so harrowing.

13 Ray Lopez December 12, 2016 at 7:16 am

Now multiply your sad emotions Rich Berger by 1000^2 for the inventors who will never invent the next flying car or cure for cancer because they’re too busy making money as middlemen, because society favors the latter (as well as Fee Simple Absolute, thank you Washington DC real estate for putting me and mine into the 1%) rather than intellectual property laws. Indeed, patent law considers the invention of a law of nature, such as Einstein’s E=mc^2 + residuals (it’s a Taylor series expansion, with the higher order powers dropping out) as a ‘discovery’ that’s unpatentable rather than an invention as it really is. Sad society we live in, that delegates invention, which the Solow model says is the only long term driver of growth, to unstable geeks who largely invent out of the love of it, rather than money (Google the software inventor of, who basically gave away his multi-million dollar IMO fortune to his friends, as he does not respond to monetary incentives). Thanks for your deep post stub Rich Berger.

14 Rich Berger December 12, 2016 at 7:24 am

Ray, I have no idea what you are talking about, but God bless you. Also, Merry Christmas to you!

15 Ray Lopez December 12, 2016 at 12:26 pm

That’s part of the problem RB. Thank you, U2 (good band).

16 Jeff R23 December 12, 2016 at 12:45 pm

Well, Leonard Cohen’s You Want It Darker, which also belongs on any list for this year.

(From other recent years, Zevon and Cash.)

17 Ted Craig December 12, 2016 at 2:33 pm

You must have missed this part above: “The albums by the old guys and also by the dead guys were pretty good, but ultimately sentimental picks and I refuse to make these lists about sentiment.”

18 rluser December 13, 2016 at 7:58 am

Just because they’re old or dead doesn’t mean it has to be about sentiment for the old and/or dead.

19 Matt December 12, 2016 at 3:12 am

Few random albums I’ve loved, some a bit off the beaten path

Beat Fatigue – Can’t Stop
Joseph – I’m Alone, No You’re Not
Jamestown Revival – Education of a Wandering Man
Kaleo – A/B

20 Managing History December 12, 2016 at 3:17 am

I don’t get all the talk about Beyonce. For one, we don’t talk about any of her previous contributions, at least not in the same way we still discuss pop albums like Thriller, Purple Rain, Revolver, Pet Sound, etc.. I must be missing something but what impact does her output have on music and not the music industry? Nothing she puts out seems original, I can’t point to any important artist today in which I can identify her influence, and most of what I do hear from her is boring and uninspired….granted, I don’t think she writes any of the music.

21 Thor December 12, 2016 at 2:12 pm

I concur. I have not heard anything original from her. But to be fair, I am not well versed in pop.

22 efp December 12, 2016 at 4:22 pm

Agree 100% What a waste of an amazing talent on paint by numbers pop dreck. She needs to take over for Sharon Jones :`(

23 Andrea Ostrov Letania December 12, 2016 at 4:36 am

Cady Groves’ early stuff and LIFE OF A PIRATE is really good. But she sold out since.

24 Pearl Y December 12, 2016 at 5:06 am

When was the last time you listened to Blueberry Boat by the Fiery Furnaces?

25 Nattering Nabob December 12, 2016 at 11:00 am

Very good album. Perhaps less insanely catchy than its more conventional predecessor Gallowsbird’s Bark. Even so, just thinking about the tracklist to Blueberry Boat has the refrain from “Straight Street” bouncing around my head.

26 Joao Eira December 12, 2016 at 5:31 am

For conceptual doom metal (open your horizons Tyler) I would recommend Subrosa’s latest.

27 steve December 12, 2016 at 9:55 am

Excellent album (and far more accessible than “conceptual doom metal” might imply).

Sad to see Tyler pretending along with everyone else that Beyonce/her writers make music that’s worth this sort of esteem. Not that the music is bad, but the packaged narrative is, conservatively. 80% of the value. Give me the under on any line for how frequently critics are listening to this album five years from now.

28 simian December 12, 2016 at 10:58 am


Also great albums by Oathbreaker, Radiohead, Animals as Leaders. And Babymetal!

Dunno what’s up with Tyler’s fixation on lame pop music.

29 Rich Berger December 12, 2016 at 6:05 am

Music has become so fractured, with genres and sub genres proliferating, that it’s hard to assemble a broad base of fans. The listeners are pigeonholed in their exclusive slots.

OTOH, there is such an abundance of fantastic music and musicians.

30 Ray Lopez December 12, 2016 at 7:07 am

I will download D. Bowie for my hot gf half my age. I personally never listen to any music, which has the benefit of enjoying a piece you may hear for the first time on the radio or supermarket just by chance, and it sounds fresh. One reason the music industry is so dead, with people flocking to the same artists who have the same songwriters (working out of the same house in Beverley Hills I once read) is that there’s no money in recorded music. So you can’t make money unless you tour, which some artists don’t like. You can’t make money with a song like “Video killed the radio star” anymore. As a consequence people depend on trademark protection to incentive-ize artists to produce music. Beyonce and Kayne West may both be sick of making music (and the latter shows signs of mental illness) but they solder on since the people, via trademark protection, have voted them as the designated frontmen for the small group of songwriters that produce their catchy tunes. Of course they will add their names to the songwriters credits, as a marketing ploy, though supposedly K. West does write some of his own songs I hear.

No money means no (or fewer) interest by society in a money-based economy. People respond to incentives. Something that even AlexT and TC forget. Sorry for such a deep post. Now off to Piratebay to download Bowie…who I once heard was a bit of a copycat but perhaps earlier in his career.

31 Asher December 12, 2016 at 7:51 am

Ray, how long can she stay half your age? If you guys got together five years ago when she was 25 and you were 50, she is no longer half your age or even very close.

32 msgkings December 12, 2016 at 12:12 pm

He hires new ones every few years, duh. What Ray called a ‘girlfriend’ is called by the rest of the world a Filipina hooker (to be fair she’s more like an exclusive mistress, I’m sure he pays her enough to keep her all to himself).

33 Thor December 12, 2016 at 2:13 pm

I have a mistress too. But she prefers to be referred to as Mrs.

34 msgkings December 12, 2016 at 3:24 pm

That’s not what she told me.

35 jim jones December 12, 2016 at 7:09 am

Damn, I am still listening to Steely Dan!

36 Ellen December 12, 2016 at 7:18 am

Saw them live recently — really amazing. Check out Fallen Angels by Bob Dylan. His band is tight & although the tracks are not originals, the arrangements are strong.

37 Zztop December 13, 2016 at 12:10 am

Nothing wrong with that at all!

38 Ellen December 12, 2016 at 7:12 am

Lady Gaga runs circles around Beyonce. The album Joanne does what iconic music should do — preserves cultural landmarks, unifies disparate groups within a generation, includes fairly sophisticated composition/performance, and fuses existing genres in a new way.

39 Moreno Klaus December 12, 2016 at 7:14 am

Beyonce best album? Most hyped album of the year for sure. But not the best.

40 Axa December 12, 2016 at 7:17 am

Rock and roll has been dead for 50+ years. People stopped dancing to Chuck Berry tunes long ago. But rock and roll diversified, went global and people just called it rock.

Anywhere anytime you can listen to a surf, slowcore, metal, psych, stoner, post or prog band. Rock is not dead, it just evolved. Most of the rock concerts that I liked the most were in this small venues or festivals (200-1500 people), not in arenas. These bands keep releasing new interesting albums and they’re nicer people. I prefer this age when you can have a beer with you favorite rock musicians instead of paying for the excesses of spoiled children.

41 Adrian Ratnapala December 12, 2016 at 10:57 am


And it is not even just little niches. I recently listened to Lady Gaga and it sounds pretty much the same as the rock that I used to listen to as a teenager. That in turn is not so different from some of the rock my parents listend to in the ’60s — although quite different from anything in the ’50s.

42 Norman Pfyster December 12, 2016 at 1:03 pm

Hey, hey, my, my. Rock and roll can never die.

43 rluser December 13, 2016 at 8:03 am

Rock and roll ain’t noise pollution

44 msgkings December 13, 2016 at 11:23 am

You know her life was saved by rock and roll, yes rock and roll.

45 Asher December 12, 2016 at 7:20 am

“Rock and roll is dead for the most part” is just a dumb statement. Just because it no longer dominates the charts doesn’t mean it’s dead. More rock and roll is performed and sold than than jazz, should we conclude a fortiori that jazz is dead for the most part?

46 pyroseed13 December 12, 2016 at 9:28 am

Actually, jazz is pretty much dead for the most part. I have maybe five jazz albums on my iPhone that were released in the last 35 years. Nothing new or exciting really being explored in that genre.

47 msgkings December 12, 2016 at 12:13 pm

And ‘rock’ does seem to be heading down the jazz pathway. It will always be out there but will be more and more niche.

48 Zztop December 13, 2016 at 12:12 am

John Scofield, but then again, maybe he’s funk instrumental. Ah, genres….

49 efp December 12, 2016 at 4:23 pm

Jazz isn’t dead, it just smells funny.


50 Zztop December 13, 2016 at 12:12 am


51 Rich Berger December 12, 2016 at 7:26 am

So is Mick Jagger going to perform “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” at the inauguration?

52 Thor December 12, 2016 at 2:59 pm

Doesn’t the success of Trump show that you can get what you want?

53 Saturos December 12, 2016 at 8:00 am

A Tribe Called Quest’s comeback did not disappoint. Radiohead’s album also made up for their previous dud, worth a mention. Particularly the opening track and its fabulous video.

54 Saturos December 12, 2016 at 8:01 am

Frank Ocean’s album was even better than the last one, what are you talking about

55 Stan December 12, 2016 at 9:26 am

Agreed but I think we’re in the minority on this. I said in another comment that I think blonde will be reevaluated as an early 21st century masterpiece. Also love the tribe album.

56 Zztop December 13, 2016 at 12:16 am

Obviously, you’re truly and profoundly deaf if you consider The King of Limbs a dud. It’s not their best, but that doesn’t make it a dud. Jeeeze!

57 Trevor H December 12, 2016 at 8:07 am

The Stage by Avenged Sevenfold was my favorite of 2016

58 JMCSF December 12, 2016 at 8:34 am

You should give Flume’s Skin a listen. He was nominated for several grammys and his sound has been very influential (and copied by mainstream artists).

59 WeAreTheSystem December 12, 2016 at 8:40 am

The Drones’ album Feelin Kinda Free tops my list for rock music. Musically interesting, passionately performed and deeply political without seeming naive or preachy.

60 Jon December 12, 2016 at 9:00 am

How about The Rolling Stones’ “Blue and Lonesome” or Leonard Cohen’s “You Want It Darker” ?

61 blades December 12, 2016 at 2:38 pm

Thanks for the Stones headsup. Definitley will get that

62 witcant December 12, 2016 at 9:07 am

A few of my favorites from this year. I listen to about 300-400 new albums a year

Various Artists – Day of the Dead (6 hours indie rock Grateful Dead album) []

Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial

Paul Cauthen – My Gospel []

Bob Woodruff – The Year We Tried To Kill The Pain

Quaker City Night Hawks – El Astronauta []

Dawes – We’re All Gonna Die []

Elvis Presley – The Wonder Of You (with the Royal Philharmonic) []

Hard Working Americans – Rest In Chaos []

Loamlands – Sweet High Rise []

Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide to Earth

Finally, while it dates back to 2015, I just came across them this year. Check out Sheer Mag []

63 Rob December 13, 2016 at 11:02 am

Thank you witcant! Great list. Where do you discover music? Any other picks to share?

64 McMike December 12, 2016 at 9:12 am

i think pop is the right word. Forget that it comes from the root popular.

It’s whatever dominant sounds du jour emerges from the corporate entertainment complex’s melange of rock country dance hiphop.

65 Dave December 12, 2016 at 9:21 am


Car Seat Headrest

The 1975

Sturgill Simpson

Modern Baseball

66 Stan December 12, 2016 at 9:22 am

2016 may be the best year for pop music so far this century
Frank Ocean Blonde will be reevaluated before long as an early 21st century masterpiece
Lemonade hype was 100% deserved and no doubt her best work
Blackstar is extraordinary not only for the fact that it’s Bowie’s eulogy to himself
Life of Pablo may not be Kanye’s best album (Yeezus) but maybe his most iconic
Tribe called quests new album is excellent and should not be dismissed as 90s nostalgia
Great work this year also from Rihanna, ANOHNI, Solange, Survive…and should mention Radiohead, Bon Iver, Chance the rappper although I prefer work from past years.

67 Dain December 12, 2016 at 8:14 pm

I quite enjoyed Mandatory’s “Paragraphs”

68 Stan December 13, 2016 at 8:27 am

Don’t know that 1

69 Stan December 13, 2016 at 8:41 am

Hey Tyler, check out PHP’s “str_replace”thanks

70 Zztop December 13, 2016 at 12:19 am

Actually, other than Bowie and Radiohead, it’s, by far, the worst pop year ever!

The best was the prior year, especially because of Kendrick’s butterfly pimping.

71 Stan December 13, 2016 at 8:37 am

Butterfly and d’angelo were great last year

72 pyroseed13 December 12, 2016 at 9:26 am

What are you missing? Um Radiohead, David Bowie, Solange, Nick Cave, PJ Harvey, Kendrick Lamar. I can’t understand how “Lemonade” could be anyone’s top pick. It’s probably marginally better than her other material, and the tracks with Jack White and Kendrick are pretty good, but the best of the year? Solange’s new one is way better and more interesting. Frank Ocean is overrated too. Minimalist R&B is a cool idea but he doesn’t really execute it too well and can’t retain my interest for more than a song or two.

73 Jonny C December 12, 2016 at 12:51 pm

Tyler has crap taste. Didn’t he have run for the jewels or something last year. Kanye the year before?

74 witcant December 12, 2016 at 9:38 am

Hurray For the Riff Raff have a new album coming out on 3/1017. They’ll be touring as well, including a stop in DC.

75 Marcus December 12, 2016 at 9:40 am

Avalanches, Nicolas Jaar for me. Avalanches’ second album is as good as their first despite the yawning 15-year gap that seemed like it would never end.

76 sloppystack December 12, 2016 at 9:43 am

Ab-Soul that just came out 12/9 is insane, possibly my album of the year but hard to figure it as such a late release. Otherwise, my favorite of the year was Nicolas Jaar – Sirens.

Oh and of course song of the year:

77 Allison December 12, 2016 at 10:30 am

Margaret Glaspy is right up there with Mitski for best of the year, for me.

78 yo December 12, 2016 at 10:32 am

Talking about ‘albums’ is so 90s. They are a technology already inside the dustbin of history.

79 RPLong December 12, 2016 at 10:39 am

Twelve Foot Ninja and Levin Minnemann Rudess both released brilliant albums this year.

80 Stephen Cowdery December 12, 2016 at 10:40 am
81 Curt December 12, 2016 at 11:55 am

Agree with Car Seat Headrest – ‘Teens of Denial’ for guitar rock this year.

82 HL December 12, 2016 at 12:02 pm

Pet Shop Boys – Super

83 John December 12, 2016 at 12:45 pm

Interesting to compare the Metascore results with the User Score results for the 2016 releases.

84 Cocomaan December 12, 2016 at 12:45 pm

Sturgill Simpson’s Sailor’s Guide to Earth is the best country album I’ve ever heard. It’s a concept album that serves as a letter to his firstborn. About half of the tracks have the Dap Kings involved, so you get a killer brass section on country tracks, and the gospel roots for the record are really evident.

Can’t get any better than that one. Good contender for a Grammy, too.

85 Zztop December 13, 2016 at 12:06 am

You haven’t heard Red Headed Stranger, and myriad other pre 1980 country albums that are far better. Sturgill’s album is good, but not that good, as in best country ever.

86 Jonny C December 12, 2016 at 12:49 pm

David Bazan – Blanco

87 Djd December 12, 2016 at 1:14 pm

Did you listen to sturgill simpsons latest album?

88 Daniel Canueto December 12, 2016 at 1:50 pm

Solange’s A Seat At The Table has all Black Lives Matter background that Lemonade has and much higher overall quality.

Anderson. Paak’s Malibu is as tasteful as commercial r’n’b can be.

Young Thug’s JEFFERY is a fascinating earworm generator, and with clickbait song titles.

89 Matt December 12, 2016 at 1:56 pm

Not a huge fan of Solange or Beyonce, but HUGE yes to Young Thug and Anderson Paak.

90 Dave Smith December 12, 2016 at 1:55 pm

I know nothing of Dave Mustaine’s politics nor what many of the songs on Dystopia might really mean, but Megadeth’s new album is my pick for album of the year of 2016.

91 Ali Choudhury December 12, 2016 at 5:53 pm

It was pretty good, some very strong tracks. Also Adele is probably the best current living pop star.

92 Urstoff December 12, 2016 at 8:52 pm

The title track is a straight copy of Hangar 18, though.

93 J.C. December 12, 2016 at 2:54 pm

Tyler, have you listened to the debut album from The Lemon Twigs? It’s like Supertramp and Nillson mixed with a little punk. Very different than a lot of recent pop experiments.

94 Urstoff December 12, 2016 at 5:20 pm

I mostly listen to metal, so these were my top albums:

Vektor – Terminal Redux
Astronoid – Air
Obscura – Akroasis
Ishahn – Arktis.
Cobalt – Slow Forever
Car Bomb – Meta
Aborted – Retrogore

95 Urstoff December 12, 2016 at 5:22 pm

Good lord, formatting

Vektor – Terminal Redux; Astronoid – Air; Obscura – Akroasis; Ishahn – Arktis.; Cobalt – Slow Forever; Car Bomb – Meta; Aborted – Retrogore

96 msgkings December 12, 2016 at 6:22 pm

What I love about this genre is, given your list, I literally can’t tell if the name before the dash is the band name or the album title.

97 rluser December 13, 2016 at 8:11 am

Not really a genre issue. It is, however, clear to me..

98 Zztop December 13, 2016 at 12:03 am

Doesn’t form feed as expected

99 Rafael R December 12, 2016 at 9:19 pm

I usually don’t listen to new music. Like Urstoff I listen to metal and my case the metal I listen too is always 10-40 years old. I wait until stuff is filtered by the fans and so I listen to mostly the top notch music. For instance, I discovered recently an album from 2001, Ensiferum, which became one of my favorites. I got the recommendation from a “best albums” list.

And I wouldn’t be touching the new mainstream American albums with 4 meter long pole.

100 rluser December 13, 2016 at 8:19 am

You are likely to miss a lot of good music with that filter.

101 Rafael R December 13, 2016 at 2:45 pm

The quantity of good music in existence is virtually infinite. Therefore you are always going to miss 99.9999% of all good music in your lifetime. The problem is not missing good music the problem is maximizing the average quality of the music you listen too. I think the solution is to let other people filter the thrash out for me so that I have only the good stuff to listen and hence maximizing the average quality of my music.

102 Econchic December 12, 2016 at 10:17 pm

I listen to Beyonce’s Lemonade probably close to 50 times. It was raw, personal and I felt deeply connected to the story.
Yet Solange’s A seat at the table somehow manages to do all of that and more in a much more subtle way. Beyonce was creme brulee, but Solange was a sun drenched berry.
Also, as a woman of colour, there is no song more relevant to my lived experience as Solange’s Mad, and that fact that she sings at almost a whisper makes it that much more beautiful and poignant.

103 g December 12, 2016 at 10:45 pm

“What am I missing?”

A compass.

104 Zztop December 13, 2016 at 12:02 am

For pure music satisfaction, 2016 albums from Radiohead, Esperanza Spalding, and Hiromi can’t possibly be topped.

105 Dan December 13, 2016 at 12:46 am

This list is missing Chance the Rapper. Basically the one ray of decency in an otherwise dark year.

106 Saturos December 13, 2016 at 2:59 am

Oh goodness, can’t believe everyone has missed this (including me!), but:
Leonard Cohen’s final album was another masterpiece;
So was Nick Cave’s Skeleton Tree.

107 Dr. Dunks December 13, 2016 at 9:56 am


108 Rafael R December 13, 2016 at 2:45 pm

Now we are talking. Slayer is perhaps the greatest thing the US has ever given to the world.

109 Jimmy December 19, 2016 at 4:55 pm

Wow, you have a really good taste in music.

Puberty 2 and My Woman are my top two favorite albums of the year.

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